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In France, Dalai Lama reaffirms Olympic support

Aug. 12, 2008, 3:30 p.m. (ET)

EVRY, France (AP) The Dalai Lama sent China a message of good will for the Olympics and skirted the contentious issue of Tibet at the start of his 12-day visit to France on Tuesday.

The Tibetan spiritual leader is spending most of the duration of the Beijing Olympics in France, with only one political event on his schedule - closed-door talks with French lawmakers on Wednesday. His trip is focused mainly on Buddhist teachings and reaching out to his flock of hundreds of thousands in France.

Though some of his supporters have protested Beijing's hosting of the Games, the Dalai Lama has sought recently to ease tensions and offered prayers and good wishes to the Chinese people last week before the Olympics opened.

He repeated that message Tuesday after visiting a pagoda under construction south of Paris.

"I fully support the Olympics in China. ... The People's Republic of China deserves to play host to the Games," he said in answer to a reporter's question.

France has many pro-Tibetan activists who protested as the Olympic flame passed through Paris in April, angry about China's harsh crackdown on the demonstrations in March.

At a Buddhist institute run by an exiled Tibetan in Veneux Les Sablons, outside Paris on Tuesday, the Dalai Lama offered prayers and greeted the town's mayor and representatives of other religions.

Later, he gave a talk on peace and nonviolence at a Vietnamese pagoda being built in Evry, south of Paris. But he did not openly link those issues to Tibet and China, and he made no mention of Tibet's status.

"Whenever we face conflict, we have to use dialogue," he said.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has decided not to meet with the Tibetan spiritual leader while the Olympics are in progress.

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